Business owner Steve Amster is about to fight city hall — again. He says the City of Encinitas’ sign ordinance discriminates against small businesses such as his while it gives special privileges to corporate stores and commercial realtors.
Any day now, Amster expects his Garden State Bagels at 171 N. El Camino Real to be cited by the city’s code-enforcement division. He has already received a threatening letter, asking him to remove his three, small, freestanding signs — two sandwich boards and a larger plastic arrow.
“They are clearly on private property and not interfering with the sidewalk,” Amster says. The city’s letter states that the signs can be a “hazard” to the public; Amster says he won’t remove them. If he’s cited, he says he will take legal action against the city for discrimination.
A protest sign — not placed by Amster — at the corner of Coast Hwy. 101 and Encinitas Blvd.
Amster points out that during the 28 years he’s been in business, different commercial leasing agents, representing his shopping center’s building, have had a much larger “For Lease” sign permanently posted in the same area. He also noted that in the front of almost every shopping center along the heavily commercialized El Camino Real, a commercial leasing agent’s sign — 4’ x 8’ in size or larger — is permanently posted. They have been the same signs for years, he says.
Amster also correctly pointed out that the nearby McDonald’s and Jack in the Box have flags, banners, and signs displayed. Years ago, Amster fought for, and won, the right to hang temporary promotional banners in front of his business.
More recently, in July 2012, he asked an illegally parked sheriff’s motorcycle officer — waiting to catch passing speeders — to leave the bagel shop’s parking lot. The officer has not returned to this site since the incident was reported here.